A new report from the International Road Transport Union (IRU) claims that with the huge gap between young and old drivers growing, the global truck driver shortage will get much worse over the next five years without significant action.
IRU’s 2023 driver shortage report has found that over three million truck driver jobs are unfilled, or seven per cent of total positions, in 36 countries studied, including Ireland.
Surveying over 4,700 trucking companies in the Americas, Asia and Europe, the IRU has found that truck driver shortages increased globally in 2023.
Two exceptions were Europe and the United States where shortages eased slightly in 2023 due to softer transport demand as a result of inflation and tighter monetary policy limiting consumption and investment.
The shortage is forecast to get much worse in the coming years. Without action to attract and retain drivers, over seven million truck driver positions could be unfilled by 2028 in the surveyed countries, including 4.9 million in China (20% of total positions), 745,000 in Europe (17% of total positions), and 200,000 in Turkey (28% of total positions).
IRU secretary general Umberto de Pretto said: “The structural issues behind truck driver shortages are continuing to impact transport services. With the rate of newcomers being significantly lower than drivers retiring every year, urgent action is needed now.
“We are missing over three million truck drivers in the countries we’ve examined. Given the demographics of the profession, we forecast that it could double within five years.
“The consequences of such a shortage are already harming the communities, supply chains and economies that depend on our industry.
“We cannot allow driver shortages to get any worse. Operators are doing their part, but governments and authorities need to increase efforts to improve working conditions and access to the profession.”
At least 50 per cent of road transport operators have serious problems hiring skilled drivers, in most countries studied. Many are also unable to expand their business and are losing existing clients and revenues, according to the IRU.
Persistent demographic gaps
The truck driver profession has an ageing population: less than 12 per cent of truck drivers are below 25 years old, falling to five per cent in Europe.
The only two countries surveyed with a higher share of drivers under 25 are China (17%) and Uzbekistan (25%).
The IRU says that the share of female truck drivers also continues to remain low at only six per cent, below the overall transport industry. China (6%) and the United States (8%) have the highest share of women truck drivers, among the countries studied.